Why Other Camera Manufacturers Should Be More Like Fuji

Why Other Camera Manufacturers Should Be More Like Fuji

The long-running battle between camera companies is something that will always exist. Forums and article comment sections will always have some type of argument about who has the better high ISO or dynamic range, how Canon has better color than Nikon or why full frame is better than a crop sensor. But when it comes to how a camera company treats the end user, I think everyone could learn a lesson from Fujifilm. 

When I first started shooting professionally, I had a Sony A900 DSLR. After a while, different Sony models would come out that had some features I would have liked to have. Sony forums started to fill with the hopes and dreams of a firmware update being released to add these features, but nothing ever came. Later on in my career, I made the switch to the Nikon D750 and started to see the exact same conversations. People would build up hypothetical wish lists of bugs they wished could be fixed or features they wanted to have added. Every once in a while, an update would be announced and the rumor mills would spin with hopeful possibilities. Unfortunately, more times than not, this update would simply be a small bug fix or some type of compatibility update to add support for a new lens.

This practice seemed to be standard across the board. Canon users even resorted to firmware hacks in an effort to unlock and add various features to their cameras. The worst of the offenders is Sony with their A7 series cameras. Here, standard features in most cameras such as time-lapse and multiple exposure have to be purchased from an app store. 

While most camera manufacturers dealt this way, Fujifilm released the original X100 in March of 2011. Like most cameras, it wasn't perfect. But one thing they did differently was offered free firmware updates. These updates not only fixed bugs and added needed compatibility updates, but also added features and improved the overall performance of the camera. Fujifilm was so dedicated to supplying an amazing product to their users, that they even released a major update almost four years after the initial release of the camera. This update came even after the camera had been discontinued and the updated model (X100S) had been announced and released. Even though these updates had the possibility to deter current X100 users from updating to the new model, they did it anyway. 

This update practice has since been applied to all their X-series cameras. Even newer released cameras such as the X-Pro2 and X-T2 have seen major updates in features and speed. Things like adding 4K video recording, extending ISO ranges, changing an unchangeable button into an Fn button, and even updating the AF tracking algorithm that doubled the cameras tracking speed. For other manufacturers, updates such as these have simply been released as a new camera model and forced users to update their camera in order to use them.

Another great thing about this business practice is that when you buy a camera, you know that the features and performance are only going to get better. This is extremely helpful when it comes to GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). When the X-Pro2 was released, it was the best Fuji had to offer. But not much later, the X-T2 was released. This new model had things like better autofocus tracking, more advanced continuous AF tracking customizations, and 4K video. Instead of lusting after the new model, X-Pro2 users simply had to sit back and wait for their firmware update. And in true Fuji fashion, that update came with these missing features plus more that were added to both models. 

From the camera manufacturer's point of view, I have to assume it’s difficult to know exactly what the end user would like to see in their cameras. Manufacturers do their best to make an overall good design, but the ability to see what the majority of users want to be changed after release, then apply it to that exact camera is an amazing benefit. It not only gives them the ability to refine older designs but also lets them fine-tune new features. Sites like Fuji Rumors regularly build firmware update wish lists and it has been confirmed that members of Fuji staff actually read this site and sees the lists generated by the users. Polls taken on the site have actually been used in Fuji presentations.    

While the Fuji Update practice is obviously beneficial to the end user, at a quick glance, it would seem to hurt the overall sales of new models. For example, consider the case of the X100 getting an update even after the release on the X100S. Some users could see this as a reason why it wouldn't be worth upgrading. But for me, these updates give me more confidence in purchasing new models. If I was moving from the X100 to the X100S, I could see the overall benefits the upgrade offered and know that things would only get better. For the users not ready to upgrade, they are not going to upgrade either way. Instead, these updates simply give them an overall better camera and solidify their loyalty so that they are more likely to buy another Fuji when they are ready for a new camera. 

I imagine that the main reason most manufacturers don't use this update practice is due to the extra cost of research and development. Once new firmware updates are designed, there is also the added expense of testing for bugs and fixing any issues that arise during that process. I think one of the key reasons that allow Fuji to minimize this cost is due to the fact that most cameras within a release year use a lot of the same internals (sensor, processor, AF, etc). So, when the X-T2 was released with new features, it was an easier task to port them over to the older X-Pro2 because they are so similar in terms of internal parts.   

I realize that most manufacturers can't and won't implement this type of updating due to the added expense. But seeing how Fuji has been able to implement this successfully should give other camera makers the insights that it is possible and could benefit their overall user experience and loyalty. 

How do you feel about your current camera companies' use of firmware updates? If your camera got an update tomorrow, what would you like to see? Do you think updates like this could work for other manufacturers? 

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29 Comments

Of course every photographer has different needs and will be served to varying levels by the camera, out of the box, but there's nothing I want, or have wanted with prior cameras, that could be addressed by a firmware update. That's not to say that will always be the case but so far, so good. Naturally, I'd like to see that potential for those who would benefit from them.

Spike S's picture

First time I ever heard someone say they wouldn't welcome improved autofocus.

It's not that I wouldn't welcome it. I just don't need it. I have no problems with it but that's probably due to the genres I'm interested in.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

That's one thing I think most camera manufacturers but medium format ones are missing. If you look at the Phase One XF when it was released, it was great, but now with the added feature updates, it's simply amazing! It has brought so many features.
I wish camera manufacturers would follow that path and try to invest in modular systems like the Phase XF or Hasselblad H series. Being able to update only components and not the whole thing each time would be beneficial to photographers and the environment as well. Plus, updates could probably be released on a more regular basis!

Hopefully, the recent iPhone scandal will make people – consumers and brands – rethink the way we consume and live :)

Gabrielle Colton's picture

One can only hope Bob, one can only hope

Motti Bembaron's picture

Hoping is good for our health :-)

What is "Interview with a Vampire"?

One problem with Fuji however, is their making too many bodies. All they really needed was the X100, XE1, XPro1 and XT1. That would have been 3 pro level bodies with different features and abilities and one superb professional quality point and shoot.

The company that other camera makers should emulate is Leica. They are the only brand with the courage to make different models that offer truly different features. One body (M240) is fully featured. Another lacks the ability to shoot video (M262). Another shoots only in Black and White (M246) while another is so stripped down that it doesn't even have an LCD screen (M-D). You don't see that sort of variety from Nikon, Canon or Fuji -despite how many different cameras all those manufacturers offer.

Garrett Reid's picture

Was this meant to be a joke?

Motti Bembaron's picture

And you want manufacturers to learn from that??

Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

The "only b&w" camera I understand since when you take out the bayer filter and the AA filter, the sensor catches more light. Though there's a lot of opinions about the real benefits of taking out the color filters array.
But the rest? What benefit can be taken from resources limitations?

Aneesh Kothari's picture

Great article and insight! I've never shot Fuji but everyone I know that does is a customer for life (or so it seems anyway).

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Ohh nice, I started out on a fuji camera and loved it

The problem with Fuji is that once you get one lens, you want more of them. Back in 2015, I started with one Fuji camera and one lens. Now I have three Fuji cameras and 11 Fujinons and I'm eyeing number 12 for sometime this year. Blasted cameras are too much fun to use.

Doug Brahm's picture

That's a problem I'm beginning to enjoy, 2 bodies and 5 lenses, is Fuji the Apple of the Photo Industry?

Motti Bembaron's picture

The Apple of the photo industry? I hope not.

They didn't update the x100t. You left that part of the narrative. At the end of the to me Fujifilm is just another company that produces a product, they'll churn out or gimp their products for sales just like any other company. You'll have more freedom of choice when you let go the romance one had for xyz company but they definitely don't care about your individual needs. If they actually listen to everyone then they would go broke.

Good point. They haven't updated the X100S (Classic Chrome, other customizable buttons.. etc). It looks like the X100 line gets some kaizen love, but not as much as the others...

Andy Whiteman's picture

Great article summing up my main reason for moving to Fuji from Nikon. Additional reasons being weight, tactile feel of the cameras and the image quality. Plus they are pretty damn good value for money.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

The firmware updates made a big difference for me. When the X-T1 first came out, I wasn't impressed and after a few days of toying around with a borrowed camera, I ended up passing. After the major firmware updated that revamped autofocus, I was much more impressed and ended up getting one. It's not the best performer in any one category, but it's a great all-around machine now with the firmware updates that's smaller than my DSLRs and gets me access to some great Fujifilm lenses such as the 56mm f/1.2.

Spy Black's picture

That Sony doesn't give firmware updates, and instead introduce new models, really pisses me off. I'm not aware of any other companies that do that. I was hoping to see firmware updates for my RX100 III that would improve it's near useless AF and give it faster startup times. Instead they introduced the RX100 IV and charge $200 more, then the V and another $200 tagged on. Total dick move.

Hi Jason,

I am sooooo pleased to read your article.Was about time someone wrote something like that.

Switching from Canon to FujiFilm at the end of 2016, I am more than pleased. It started when FujiFilm Switzerland loaned me a X-T1 for a Greenland trip. This camera performed so well in these harsh Arctic conditions. I even wrote a blog post the performance of the FujiFilm X-T1. http://www.anettemossbacher.com/fujifilm-xt-1-and-greenland-icebergs/

A German photo magazine did an interview with me and also asked me, if I in the near future wanted to switch camera brands. Indeed, I wanted to go to FujiFilm for even more reasons as mentioned in this article. After the article about me was published, camera shops in Germany and Switzerland contacted me. They all told me the same. How their sales of the other "two big brands" broke in, in the past 1-2 years. They all came up with lots of questions, reasons...etc. that I switch/ed.

However, I am more then pleased with my switch to FujiFilm. In Switzerland the service was outstanding, as well now here in South Africa the service is outstanding. I have never ever received such fantastic service from Canon, even that I was a CPS Gold member.

FujiFilm DOES listen to their end consumers!

And if anyone asks, do you ever regret the switch from Canon To FujiFilm?

Noooooooooo, I never did and I never will! I love my cameras from FujiFilm as well my lenses. TOP

Thanks so much for writing this article, it hits the nail on it's head.

Have a great weekend

Ciao Anette

Anonymous's picture

It's still a thorn in my side as an X100s owner that I can't use Fuji's Classic Chrome film simulation without changing my exif data which enables it in post.

I changed to Chrome in Lightroom Trevor. Most easiest to do. :) Give it a try

Truth is, when bugs become apparent, 99.9% of consumers can't afford to upgrade to the next model only one year later, they simply become unhappy. Unhappy with the brand, so they buy fewer lenses, and unhappy with photography, so they may leave it altogether in favor of smartphones. In this market, no camera brand can afford that.

Marta Kulesza's picture

I've made the switch from Canon to Fujifilm last year and I hope to never look back! This was another article that reassured my decision!

Olympus and Panasonic have some pretty awesome firmware updates as well.

Anonymous's picture

Fuji would be OK if they have the currage to learn from Leica.
It is about reducing the soooo many available features in Fuji cameras.
Personaly, but I’m convinced that also the majority of amateur photographers, use only 10% of the features, so the remaining 90% can be kicked out. Or to present an user configurable menu.
Camera pace is OK, if they keep the frequent fw updates.
The question is if they really need so many models but this can be answered only by Fuji itself.